WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Congress will very likely need to pass more stimulus legislation for the U.S. economy, as the nation struggles to recover from the coronavirus outbreak.
“I think there is a strong likelihood we will need another bill,” he said Thursday at an online event hosted by the Hill newspaper — but he also reiterated the Trump administration’s position that more stimulus isn’t needed immediately.
“We’re going to step back for a few weeks and think very carefully if we need to spend more money and how we’re going to do that,” Mnuchin said. He said he had spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week about implementation of the $2.2 trillion stimulus Congress passed in late March.
The House passed an additional $3 trillion stimulus last week but Republicans in control of the Senate have said they won’t consider it. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they instead want to evaluate the effect of some $5 trillion already aimed at the economy by Congress and the Federal Reserve.
Meanwhile, the economy continues to deteriorate as Americans practice social distancing to curb the spread of the virus.
Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported, bringing the total to nearly 39 million since March. The two-month total is roughly equivalent to all of the initial claims filed during the Great Recession.
Pelosi and many Democrats have said state governments and hospitals in particular are in dire need of more federal assistance.
Resistance is growing to McConnell’s position among members of his own party.
Several Senate Republicans have signed on to a $500 billion package of state and local aid, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who faces a tough reelection fight in November.
Another endangered Republican, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, has criticized plans to adjourn the Senate for a Memorial Day recess without further action to respond to the virus.
Mnuchin on Thursday said he expects that in the second quarter ending in June, the economy will “bottom-out” and by the end of the year, the GDP increase will be “gigantic.”
So far, the Treasury chief has spent more than $500 billion helping small businesses, sent cash directly to American families and given federal aid to airline workers, but there is plenty of fire-power left from the current rounds of stimulus.
He has only spent $37.5 billion of the half-trillion dollar pot of money for direct loans to companies and to launch multiple Federal Reserve emergency lending facilities.